Monday, May 22, 2017


       Guilt is like an old open wine that cannot be swallowed. It fills your mouth with it's bitter gull, but you carry it around with you because you think you deserve it. It's revolting, but you are unable to do the very simplest of things; to spit it out and let it go.

This post is only gonna start sad.

        I'm gonna start with apologies that I should have made when they were alive. I didn't know I owed them until they were gone, because I was selfish and short sighted. In hindsight we are all geniuses right? I have to let the guilt go now. Honestly, I'm so tired.


You called me in utter distress and I gave you the wrong advice. I should have shut my ignorant mouth and said "I don't know." Instead, I told you what I was programmed to tell you. I'm so sorry.

I took advantage of you like so many other people did. I should have been a person that would never do that. I should have always protected you. You spent hours fixing things for people. You got very little pay or appreciation for it. But it was your time. It was precious moments of your life. Those hours are priceless now to me. I'd give you all of my money to get them back.

I didn't have the strength to go into that garage the day you died and face you. When Joe called me, I went into a different place and went to the basement and sat on a laundry basket. I sat there not knowing what to do. I took the longest route to your house trying to figure out how to handle what was about to cross my life. I walked inside and did not go there to face you. Everyone else did. Not me. It was a cowardly thing to do. If I could do it again, I would have been braver.


You were so much work. You lied all the time. You were always crying wolf. I knew you were in trouble. I acted, but not in the ways I should have. At some point, I forgot about that enormous heart you had for me and my family. I forgot that you would have always died for me. That's one of the biggest regrets of my entire life Joe. This one sits in my stomach. I swallowed this bad wine. It sits in my stomach now.

I didn't respond to your text. You texted me the morning you left. I didn't hear it because I decided to leave my job for another that required me to work nights for a time. You texted me at 10:12 AM.  I had worked until 7:30 that morning. I responded at 2:58 PM when I woke. I didn't get a response.

I'd give anything to have that conversation.


        Like all of their family and friends, I'm finding my way out. I'm trying to find a way to enjoy the sun again. I've made some bad habits that I need to remedy, and I'm almost ready to do that. I have to cut my emotional attachment to feeling bad for something that they did. In the end, they were grown adults that made these terrible decisions that changed the lives of everyone around them. My brother Andy told me in a text the night Joe died, that I had no reason to be blamed. Joe had laid waste to everyone that loved him. I get it now. I didn't then. I could only see guilt. Those left behind, get to deal with the disaster they left behind. We end up trying to fix people that you broke.

        I went through some photographs yesterday. There were so many of you two fooling around. I looked at the photos and realized that they didn't make me hurt in my chest. They made me smile like the photos of my kids when they were babies did. This wasn't always the case. Most times when I see photos of us together, I get and instant stomach ache and it doesn't leave until I pay some penance, usually in the form of an embarrassingly honest post on this blog.

        I've settled in to a life without you two in it. The adjustment period was pretty strenuous, and I'm not saying that's over, but the the crisis part is. I'm enjoying watching my kids grow and become their dreams. I'm enjoying a marriage that is based more on quirky loving banter and less about what lies beneath our everyday speech.

       I think about them everyday, but now I smile. They aren't always ghosts. Sometimes now, they are memories that remind me that I need to be a better person in this sometimes terrible world. I need to fight harder. I need to work on myself and close open doors to darkness.

        All that being said, I'll never stop being sad I don't think. I don't want to. I think sadness allows me to empathize with others. I think it's the reason why God let it happen in the first place. He knit me together knowing I would be garbage to some people. At least I would experience it that way. He also knew about that unspeakable joy I would have in my heart when I got everything I had ever wanted. He gave me everything and took some too. In the end, I'm smiling and happy. I am absolutely broken, but full.

My son is just like me in both the good and bad.

My daughters are just like me in both the good and bad.

My wife is the difference. They resemble her the most in the way they present themselves. They respect themselves and know the difference between good and bad because of her. She is my hero and also theirs. I am happy and fulfilled because of her. I happy because of them. God knew she would be the person who saved me.

        I'll never figure out why my brothers were able to do what they did. I don't have to. For once in my life, I don't have to. They did it, and the "why" is over. I'll always miss them, but I don't need to keep that wine in my stomach.



Thanks for reading...Z

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Lion - A Short Story (Prequel to Hospice)

        The alarms went off and everyone started running in every direction. I only knew what way to go, and that was to home.

        I ran as fast as I could. There wasn't even a bike I could borrow. I just ran, hoping I could outrun my death. I got about a block away from my house before I began to doubt that I would make it.

       My mom was special. She had cancer. Cancer isn't special. Cancer is a Satan and he was going to take her from me at 5 years old, I just knew it. I just remember feeling so hopeless watching the world darken and turn into terrifying shapes I will never forget. The wind picked up and the sky got really dark. I ran past the Whitakers and their wind chimes were singing a terrible song. Garbage cans and newspapers flew everywhere. But I pushed forward to my house, that held my mother.

        Me and my mom used to write on each other's backs at night. It was a fun game that we always played, no matter what. She would draw either a word or a picture on my back and I would guess. When one of us made a mistake, we would erase the entire palate like one would a chalk board. I would draw on her back, and she would draw on mine. We would do this until one of us didn't turn around for their turn. Then the other would know they were asleep, and then go to sleep themselves. Going to sleep felt so lonely to me.  I rarely slept first. I always waited for her. I had to protect her.

        Who else would? My dad left before I was born. I didn't have any siblings. I was the only "man." He left before I was born, denying all kinds of things. She didn't drag me through it...she walked away, risking our well being for my dignity. And now here I am running from a dark siege toward my home that I grew up in; that hadn't been fortified or fixed in decades, to get to my mom. I needed her and she needed me. We were each other's cure for loneliness. We were also each other's cures to the terror in the world.

        The wind blew me down to the ground, planting my face into a wheat bail. I got up immediately and started running, while also staggering toward the front door. The wind struck again, throwing me onto the bending stalks of corn. I got up again and set my eyes to my home. I ran toward the door as the wind pushed me to the right, then suddenly to the left.

       The front door burst open and there she was. My mom came running out. I knew she would. I knew she had to be there. I was scared she wouldn't be, but I just knew she would. The wind blew her down the moment she stepped out of the house. She got back up and forged ahead to me. I wasn't as brave as I was a moment ago. When I saw her, I became a kid again. I was scared and showing it. She fell several times before she reached out her hand and grabbed onto my shirt. She pulled me to her chest, then dragged me staggering to our house, closing the door before we were sucked out.

        There was this time that she wrote on my back that I had gotten the honor of captain of the safeties of the fifth grade. Another time. she wrote that grandma had died, then wrote that she was sorry. Another time, she wrote that the Tigers had won the world series. I laughed and shook my fist in victory at this. Then the time came that she wrote that she had cancer, and would have to leave me. She didn't write all of those words, but that's what I got. She erased what she wrote at least a dozen times before she let it go to me.

        I had made it home. She pulled me by the hand to the bathtub and as we sat in it she was sitting with her back to the storm and me sitting between her legs, with her arms wrapped tight around me. I felt safe. I was home, and that was all I needed to be.

        The wind blew the roof off and sucked every piece of furniture out of the house. It was a slowly twisting mass of darkness that took all of our things and brought down the wall joists and load bearing walls on top of us. Everything was shaking and I could hear my mom grown as objects hit us from every side. I heard her pray to God for help. I heard her cry and beg for God to save me... Me.

        Hours later, we laid at the bottom of a lot of rubble. We couldn't see sunlight or hear any commotion. We just laid there in the bathtub, below everything that makes a house. I felt a familiar finger on my back. She said, What do you call cheese... that's not your own? I had already heard it, but I shrugged my shoulders anyway. I pretended to laugh at her answer by shaking my tiny diaphragm. She wrote everything about her life on my back and kept shaking me to keep me awake. She wrote that she loved me so many times I lost count. I couldn't answer, something kept me from speaking. There a was a pressure on my chest and a weakness in my throat.

I told her I loved her back in my mind, every time.

        We laid there until be both fell into a deep sleep. To be honest, I fell asleep first. I don't know how long she wrote on my back. I don't want to know. But I do know that at the darkest point of consciousness,  I saw the sunlight. I opened my eyes to it first and immediately looked for her. Things were blurry, but I found her hand hanging from a gurney. I tried to get up. I tried to shout to her. I couldn't produce anything that would disrupt the atmosphere. I thought she was dead. I fell asleep again.

        I would wake days later with an IV in my arm, staring up at ceiling tiles. It took a few moments for me to remember who I was, or where she was.

        Then I heard her voice. I looked to my left and she was reaching for me. I grabbed her hand and we both cried for very different and the very same reasons.




Thanks for reading...Z

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Little Depression to Make Your Day Better

         When something dies, it's body begins to shut down, starting from the least important organs to the most. Our anatomy is really intelligent and reactive to our physical and emotional situation. Eventually, without a cure, the body will begin to let go of it's most important organs...until the heart succumbs and the rhythm of that soul has ceased. Everything that person has experienced has become an archive. Very few will remember him and even less as the years add to their numbers. 1% of the earth's total population will be remembered by the future. 99% will go off into oblivion without a soul eventually remembering their existence.


Thanks for reading...Z

Searching for Sophie

        I sat in the corner of the room furthest from anyone that would notice me. I sat biting my nails. I have the hardest time with crowds because I feel like they are all looking at me. I say strange things and have a twitch that begs people to ask questions that make me even more nervous. I came to the party because I needed something different. I've grown tired of living where no one else dwells. I'm in a basement, staring out of a blurred glass block window at the sounds that resinate from other peoples lives. Their lives were filled with laughter and I wanted that. I wanted to let every part of myself go.

        I went to the party: I used the same coping mechanisms my father; who was stricken with the same fear, taught me whenever I refused to let it go. "When you decide to see the world, go to the corners and watch for your moment," he would say. I haven't spoken to him in a decade. He passed on holding my mom's hand as he let the leukemia take him suddenly. He was working on the fire pit in the back yard and collapsed. It took the disease two days to take him from us.

        I was about to leave the party. I had lost hope of any "moment" happening that would change anything going on in me. I thought about what he had said to me and it made me mad, because he was wrong, but even more it made me miss my dad so much. I was almost in tears when I felt the cold rush of some kind of fluid run down my back like a knife to my lungs. I turned and looked at her right in the eyes as she stood over me sitting on the basement stairs. She grinned and offered no apology. I looked at her again, this time with a little anger in my face. She smiled at me full out.

       "What? Really?" I said. She just looked at me. I nodded and got up from the stairs to meet her hand on my shoulder pushing me back down. "You're an idiot," she said. "All of this life in this room, and you're in the shadow of it, playing with the assholes in your mind telling you to stay out of it. I just looked at her. She was beautiful. She was so pretty that I couldn't speak. I had seen her before in a couple of undergrad classes. She was always loud and making jokes. As far as I could see, she didn't have a lot of friends, but she was always engaging people. Like, this guy did an assigned presentation in front of a class of 100 students and at the end part when he asked if there were questions, she asked five. None of the questions were really answered.

        I didn't know what to say to her, so I said, "I'm just putting the feelers out." She laughed at that and sat down next to me, right in a puddle she had purposely made with the drink she had purposely dumped down my back. "My mom was crazy you know," she said and continued, "She kept setting things on fire until she ended up in an institution. How does that make you feel?" she asked. "It makes me feel bad for you," I reply. "See that's the thing; people always want to feel bad when someone tells them a bad story. It's a part of human nature that is flawed. People want to respond by saying they're sorry because they imagine their mom being mentally sick. They project their lives onto others. They never want to think about the alternative way of feeling. They don't want to think that the other was spared from a life of terror and even death by fire from an unstable person incapable of loving." I didn't know what to say, so I didn't.

She continued...

        "My dad raised me alone. He never did a single thing wrong. He was too anxious to make mistakes. I think my mom and dad attracted to each other because of their similarities. It was their differences that saved my life. She let it all go and burned down all of us. He kept his white knuckles on the reins and held me behind him as he took the bullets." "Where is he?" I ask. "He died in a house fire in the middle of the night the year I went away to college," she replied and continued. "He took her back and she wrecked the world that keeps spinning all around us. It's funny when you think about that. In reality, we circle the sun, revolving around every day that revolves into years. The entire time, we think the world is revolving around us."

        "I think that's why you're so scared," she said.

        She got up and walked away, through the small hallway and out the front door. Everything inside of me screamed in my father's voice, "This Is Your Moment!!!!!!" I took a few really fast breathes and got up and ran to the door chasing her. I reached her as she was about to get into her car. "I want to know you!" I said in an urgent tone that I regretted, but not really. I did want to know her. She seemed to see right through me like she knew me, and I wanted to see her. She looked at me and kissed me on the lips. The entire world became still and watched this moment as the world spinned around the sun slowly. I felt my body tremble incessantly and my fear begin to melt into the moment of kissing my first love...kissing this girl I barely knew, but somehow was the closest person to me in the entire world.

        A tear rolled down her face as she looked at me. She didn't say anything. She held my face in front of hers with her hands and looked directly into my soul. It seemed like an hour, but was only minutes. It took a few seconds for it all to implode me as she got into the car and drove away, leaving me without any words. I hit my knees and just stared into the sky. I felt like I was aligning with the world and we were becoming a part of each other. And she was gone.

She was gone.

       I searched the entire earth for her for years and years until I gave up searching. I graduated university and got a degree in bioengineering. I was successful from the very start. I made a million dollars my first year out of college and almost doubled that the next due to investments. None of it made any sense. I was being driven by a force that was a ghost. She was so active inside me, yet no where to be found. I worked as if she could see me, because I always pictured her watching me from wherever she was.

        Ten years after college I was sitting on the bench in front of a hot dog stand eating a coney I had bought. I was reading the paper and on the seventh page of the "local news" section, it read, "Body found in Gregory Park identified as Sophie Hawkins." The article contained a photograph of the only love of my life, just as I had remembered her. I saw her photo and lost my heart onto the cement. I had missed her for so long and here she was in the newspaper, telling me she had gone missing the night we met. Everyone in the world was searching for Sophie as I was; only to find her lying as bones in the brush behind an old abandoned horse shoe pit.

        They didn't ever figure out what happened to her. She was a ghost to me that I would never know anything about. But what I hold on to is the moment she put the guts inside me to chase her. That night, she was the "moment" my father was talking about.

I would learn to live for the moments that gave me a chance and drive to leap from the twisted knot that imprisons me most days; searching for Sophie.


Thanks for reading...Z

Monday, May 1, 2017


         I live in a square box. I look up and there is this square that restricts the rain, and also my accidental ascension into the sky. I live in squares. Little boxes sitting next to little boxes. One of those boxes is covering my son. He is a typical teenager. He can be annoying sometimes, and maddening others. But if I were to have a pick over who will be left standing in the end...I'd pick him. He has suffered a lot, yet there is an inner strength that I see and admire so much about him. He isn't an average kid to me. Just like your kid isn't average to you. We are hopefully all proud parents.

       Under another square ceiling in her box is my daughter. She is sensitive and picks up on the most subtle of nuances. She would walk through fire for those she loves. Her fuse is short for people because she expects a lot from them, but she will fight and claw her way to whatever she sets her eyes on. She will always see through your bullshit. Just like her mom. It's like a super power really.

        Under a box that lives over an hour from me, lives this adult little girl that has no idea the emotion it brought the first time she called me dad. She is a strong girl and so smart and seemingly unaffected by the awful in the world. She is beautiful in every way.

        I lie under my own square that I share with this girl I met. We didn't really make any plans when we got married. We only knew that we wanted each other to be old with. Still do. Marriage takes a lot of heat because of it's ever increasing failure rate. I can't speak on that because I am so happily married. This isn't "bragadocious," it is truth. When people decide to make promises, they do everything they can to keep them. That's marriage. It's not about me, it's about every person in square boxes connected to you.

        There are little boxes that hold our parents in their homes, nursing homes, or hospitals. Little boxes that hold our grandparents in the ground. Little boxes that hold my brothers' ashes. Little boxes hold and protect everything. I think the point is that people make boxes to protect what is precious to them from the elements. No one wants those that they love to not have a place in the earth.

        My kids each have their own rooms, thank God. But on nights when my youngest daughter is tired and vulnerable, she opts always to sleep in her brother's room on the top bunk. This is connection. We feel comfort when we are next to people that we trust, even if they piss us off a lot.



Thanks for reading...Z